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Tuesday, May 31, 2005



All my Brit pals are hooked. I hear of nothing else on the BBC.

My Seattle pals look at me with puzzled expressions.

How wonderful if it doesn't sweep this side of the Atlantic.

Read all about it:

  • Slate's Seth Stevenson is addicted and predicts you'll be too.
  • Sudoku.com gives the best explanation and sample games.
  • The Daily Telegraph calls it a phenomenon (and runs a busy site to fit)

  • Red Throat, Deep Herring

    With nonagenarian Mark Felt confirmed as Woodward and Bernstein's shadowy informant, the whole world will be dishing up their own 'Deep Throat' stories, so why not me?

    First off, even tho' I promoted Secker & Warburg's UK edition of All the President's Men, co-ordinated the authors' London publicity visit, *and* helped in the UK movie promotion, I don't believe the name of Mark Felt ever penetrated my consciousness until today.

    However, I was the dupe of a splendid sting at the expense of the London gutter press who were clearly determined to succeed where their American brethren had failed and expose this 'Deep Throat' chappie.

    The initial negotiations with the Woodstein entourage to visit for some UK publicity had been handled by my boss, who then gave me detailed instructions - suspiciously detailed, now I look back - on their choice of hotel, the precise rooms into which they should be booked, and the assumed names they would be using. The rooms turned out to be available, reservations were made, and I was sworn to secrecy lest the media discover where they were staying and go behind our backs for interviews.

    Being a seasoned pro', I scoffed at such aspersions on my ability to run a tight-lipped department and probably uttered a scornful "faugh!" before prancing back to my office.

    As it turned out, the reptiles of Fleet Street were cleverer social engineers than I expected, timing phone calls while I was out on expense account lunches and asking informed questions of my colleagues that, to my horror, got them exactly the information they were after.

    Rather than confess my breach of security to the CEO, I paid a surreptitious visit to the hotel where I conferred with the manager on the chance of at least changing the dynamic duo's room. This too was done with suspicious ease and I confirmed again with the manager the need for utmost secrecy.

    In fact, the whole hotel thing was a decoy. Unbeknownst to me, they were booked into a completely different address known only to my boss and from where they traveled each day to our offices for the interviews. The hotel bookings were fake and transferred to bona fide guests once they had served their intended purpose.

    What *was* funny was that two separate newspapers had actually bribed staff to let them into the rooms to place bugs, presumably to catch the lads letting slip Mr Throat's name in private discussion. Nor did they just bug the first room, but also the one I changed them to under cloak of secrecy with the manager.

    The only reason I rumbled this attempted espionage was that I almost immediately got a stream of very fed-up messages and phone calls from the thwarted hacks' editors demanding to know what the bleedin' hell was going on and, blimey, things had come to a pretty pass when a book publisher lowered itself to that sort of trickery. No recognition of the irony of them complaining about being beaten at their own game.

    I of course pretended to have been in on the trick from the start - nay, its very mastermind - and hinted that they'd need to be faster off the mark if they wanted to outfox *me* in the future.

    While on the subject, good BBC profile.

    cheese chase

    Cheese Chase

    At least I didn't spend my Monday risking life and limb in hot pursuit of an 8lb double Gloucester cheese down a 1-in-2 incline.

    All good mad Brit Bank Holiday fun.

    Post-script: I can't stand being old-hat or one of the crowd, so I'm annoyed to find that even Sports Illustrated latched on to this story.

    Honestly, isn't one tempted just to delete the whole post rather than share the podium with the polloi?

    Open Source Radio

    I made sure of reserving the evening for the radio room and listened agog.

    I was going to post details for those who hadn't caught wind of Lydon's Open Source show, but Julie says it all and better.

    Besides, you can then move on to read about her assorted meme frolics.

    In fact, just noodling around, I've come across a posting about the show by a Doc Searls who I actually heard on it (and whose name is familiar from mentions by Julie).

    Like the good doctor, I too rather liked that "revenge of the sources" description.

    Clearly, a program to stay tuned to - plus, it's on at exactly the right hour to keep me off the streets and out of my usual mischief.

    Measuring the Impact of Blogs

    Something I found via TTLB - WSJ's numbers guy, Carl Bialik running a piece I must read and digest further.

    Sunday, May 29, 2005

    Biggest Visual Disconnects

    Wonderful competition and results set by Slate's ever-sharp movie critic, David Edelstein.

    Scroll down to the pic of Sam Jackson and read on from there.

    I actually laughed out loud twice:

  • The way Scott Wilson described the Harvey Keitel/Kate Winslet duet in Holy Smoke.
  • Edelstein's own reaction on being told of the pairing in Arizona Dream.

  • Bag snatcher bagged

    Security camera in a Tokyo elevator captures an attempted bag snatch.

    Watch her economy of movement as the young lady breaks his neck.

    Friday, May 27, 2005

    20 years for drug bust

    Uh ohh ... one of those cases ... Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia ... same difference. I marvel that people still think there's anything new about such arrests which should be old hat by now.

    In this case, an Indonesian court hammering an Australienne with 20 years for trying to smuggle marijuana into Bali.

    There was a time in Hong Kong when hardly a week went by without someone knowing someone who knew someone who'd been stitched up by one of those courts and were either on death row or looking at serious time in a not very nice caboose.

    As I recall, it was never ever their fault. Indeed, according to 27-yr-old Schapelle Corby here, the drugs found in her unlocked bag were planted.

    Now for the lengthy toing and froing tug-of-war as family, friends and the Oz Foreign Service engage Jakarta in the usual two-step.

    These being Australians, and Schapelle being a bit of a looker, there'll be the usual tsunami of indignant phone-ins and huffing and puffing over her undoubted innocence. It also being Indonesia - not known to be overly concerned by world opinion - I'd say Ms Corby has a few years wait as any appeal winds its way through the courts.

    While on this whole subject, here is where I'd also file Thai cop guns tourists-type items.

    bill frisell


    Which sounds by the more Royal Appointment?

    The Bill Frisell official homepage or his official website? Both look vaguely accredited but I'm more and more coming across such duelling URLs.

    Anyway, both seem to have caught scent of his June 12 new release, "East/West", which is more than the actual label, Nonesuch, is ready to reveal.

    "Specially-priced double-live CD featuring Bill Frisell's two working trios.

    "West", featuring Bill's trio with Viktor Krauss and Kenny Wollesen, recorded at Yoshi's in Oakland.

    "East" featuring Frisell's other working trio with Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen, recorded at the Village Vanguard in New York City."

    Fine pedigree: Claudia Engelhart engineered the Yoshi's performances, Tucker Martine engineered the Vanguard dates, Greg Calbi mastered both, and production by the great Lee Townsend.

    To, boot, a second set of material from both the "East" and "West" venues said to become available as a special download.

    Meanwhile, music flows everywhere:

    recyle poster from MM

    Recycle Poster UK-style

    Favorite Brit-chick (as she was known to my staff at work) mails me about

    "A big push over here to recycle - our local Council has even given us all a second wheelie-bin for garden/food waste in addition to our standard wheelie-bin and the green box for papers, bottles and cans!

    Here is a rather clever poster advert on the A4 coming into West London.

    Three out of four of those products are surely in everyone's cupboard over here - we have all 4!!"

    I spot:

  • My belovèd Marmite, far right.
  • Robertson's jams and marmalades (in my day, the label was adorned with a merry 'golliwog' that one could send away for badges of and other souvenirs featuring the cheeky chappie. Long since done away with in the accursèd name of modernity.
  • Is that 'London' label a Hellmann's jar?
  • Finally - shame on me and all thanks to Sharon - the 'Recycle' jar is, of course, wonderful Branston Pickle, which should long have been on my SNOOPS list (Stuff Never Out Of Permanent Stock).

  • 11 Steps to a Better Brain

    Any article that even *mentions* Marmite, let alone recommends it, gets my vote and a place in my blog.

    star wars

    Store Wars

    I must be tired of life: I have not the slightest inclination to see this latest Star Wars film.

    Indeed, where are we now in the canon? Where does this latest, Sith version fit in the whole saga?

    A prequel to some earlier recapitulation? Or are we now all caught up with who's who?

    Any new identity crises to keep audiences gussing and gasping?

    I should be more au courant but the flick simply doesn't come up in conversation.

    Anyway, to show team spirit, two little distractions:

  • A mildly diverting spoofette on STORE Wars
  • And the clever, never-ageing Star Wars Gangsta Rap

  • Thursday, May 26, 2005

    Productive Blogging

    I find I use this blog as an anvil for hammering things out, whereupon I can see if there's an iota of sense, sincerity or truthful opinion.

    It's also good for keeping my near and dear in touch with latest fads and foolishness, sometimes eliciting feedback that I've actually caught myself on blue moon moments acknowledging and heeding glimmers of good advice.

    What I don't understand is my apparent inability to apply anything from other blogs that I admire. Such as brevity. Well, that goes for people, too, so I shouldn't be too surprised.

    My late father had a trait that I yearned to make mine. When addressed, he would fix you with his level gaze during which there'd be a pause that sometimes had people wondering if he'd actually heard them and whether they should repeat.

    Then, without hum or ha or fiddly gesture, he'd deliver his considered reply to the point in hand, no more and no less. No embellishing or blowing his own trumpet or making a tangent to what he himself might fancy chatting about.

    I'm reminded of all this by a fine post by Lifehacker citing Keith Robinson on what makes a good blog. Also, Tristan Louis' equally valuable secrets of A-list bloggers.

  • Brevity
  • Scheduling specific time to write (as I do my email)
  • Take photos, husband ideas for fallow times
  • Again, lots of short entries (I really must try that excellent discipline of keeping to under 150 words
  • Read, listen, explore
  • Be ever alert to the new and challenging
  • It used to be my guitar, churning and honing new compositions for the current Muse de coeur, regardless of whether she ever heard or heeded them. Now I sense I'm on a course best summarized as 'Blog Your Way to Sanity'

    Liverpool in red

    Red for Victory

    No sooner am I scoffing askance at Nature magazine's May 19 article on red being the color of victory and success, than Liverpool pull off the even less likely feat of coming back from three goals down to trounce AC Milan for the Champions League.

    Wednesday, May 25, 2005


    The 31st Seattle Film Festival (May 19 - June 12) is once more upon us and bliss is it to be unemployed.

    Having said that, I nurse uneasy memories of furtive pleasures, betrayal and guilt.

    I arrived in Seattle from Hong Kong in the early 1990s, leaving my family behind, the better to work the city via business contacts and my own efforts over the phone and general foot-in-door ooziness.

    The month was May and I almost immediately fell among thieves, joining a promising gang of chamber-of-commerce heavy-hitters for a festival highlight.

    I remember feeling and looking somewhat out of place, with a wardrobe that was very much Hong Kong - bespoke glad rags from Harilela, neck-wear of impeccable pedigree, and footwear fit to pass muster with the fussiest head waiter or club secretary.

    We met at some posh watering hole, performed breezy intros (during which I made a total prat of myself handing out business cards with due bowing) and moved on suitably oiled to enjoy the movie du choix.

    All I remember is watching the titles come up and wondering what the heck I was doing there as my devoted family was huddled back home, trusting me to be beavering away on my job search. And you know what? I checked out more movies the next day. And the next.

    In each case, I sat thru the first 20 mins and then left in shame and guilt, scurrying home to peck ineffectually at the laptop in a pathetic attempt to salve my conscience.

    By the time the next year's Festival came round, the family was united in a bijou Bainbridge cottage and I was actually in a position to lavish my own expense account on powerful journos but I found myself unable even to check out the listings.

    What I *will* particularly miss is those chatty Sunday morning queuings with my bright pal Eric as we waited for the Egyptian to open for the delightful *secret* film showings.

    The ever-excellent Seattle Weekly SIFF supplement reads my plight perfectly, recommending unemployment to take in the cinematic cornucopia.

    At first glance, my eye alights on:

  • maggie cheung2046 with the luminous Maggie Cheung Ho-yee
  • Miranda July's "Me and You"
  • Herzog's Grizzly Man (after Incident at Loch Ness, I want to see everything this gruff dude delivers)
  • 36 with Depardieu and Auteuil
  • Ellie Parker, because the sooner I lose this crush on Naomi Watts, the better
  • Rock School
  • Fallen Angel, Gram Parsons
  • I even intend to check out some of the recommended watering holes, not least the Mirabeau Room in the hopes of re-freshing my friendship with
    supremo, the wonderful Jim Demetre.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2005

    Français pour "weblog"?

    Try "Note pad"

    I haven't checked if Philippe is also running this, but this comes via

  • Sploid
  • Via clever boing boing
  • Via the intriguing Löic Le Meur, who I'll definitely watch for a while in case worth bloglining.

  • AAUP Quizzes 'Google Print for Libraries'

    Interesting politicking going on with Business Week magazine and Google's Print for Libraries program.

    Out of the blue, they now print a letter from the executive director of the Association of American University Presses to Google senior counsel, Alexander Macgillivray.

    It seems that AAUP members were initially enthusiastic about Google Print, but are now concerned over the library scanning program, saying it "appears to involve systematic infringement of copyright on a massive scale."

    The letter poses a series of 16 detailed questions and points to currently gray areas in the library scanning program. But the largest objection is that Google kept the library venture secret even while negotiating with publishers for rights to the basic Google Print program.

    The letter goes on to say that, "At the recent meeting of scientific, technical and medical publishers in Washington, your colleague J.R. Needham, if I heard him correctly, told us that it was unnecessary for Google to clear permissions for Google Print for Libraries with those publishers who had agreed to participate in Google Print for Publishers, because they had already given their consent. These facts are simply wrong. Publishers' contracts for Google Print are title-specific and can't be interpreted as a blanket license. Furthermore, no publisher knew about Google Print for Libraries until it was announced in mid-December."

    Hmm - this will either lead to "clarity" in Google's position or more aggressive action in opposition to the program.

    Monday, May 23, 2005

    Syntactical Unease

    Glorious phrasing in one of my reviewer's assessments of some books I sent out for comment:

    "Their distinguishing factor?

    Why, an absolute terror in the company of language, a deep syntactical unease and a general attitude to the beauties of "English" that might be compared to a gorilla toying with a Sèvres vase."

    Sunday, May 22, 2005

    mary kay and vili


    Quite right of Chip Gibbons' wide-ranging Binary Circumstance blog not to have a category for such bizarre goings-on as the Vili-fication of the fragrant Mary Kay Letourneau.

    i myself file it under 'Prurient'.

    Goodness, what a to-do: coverage from as far afield as The Houston Chronicle, not to mention a barrage of email from UK pals asking what the deuce is going on that they should share their country weekend breakfasts of kippers and kedgeree with blanket coverage in the once-proud Sunday Times.

    vili and mary kayActually, the lad seems to have to turned into rather a handsome brute - shades of The Rock, methinks.

    Full marks to their media advisor for that lucrative deal with Entertainment Tonight.

    That should set them up for a month or two, although I have no doubt we'll be plagued with coverage of this family for a good while to come.

    So much for wasting my precious unemployment benefit on their wedding registry suggestion of a fondue set.

    Elena Paparizou

    Greece Wins Eurovision Song Contest!


  • Elena Paparizou beats out 23 rivals with "My Number One"
  • My favorite kitsch event - at last won by the home of democracy - there'll be some ouzo sinking and bouzouki plinking in the tavernas tonight.
  • elenaOfficial ESC site
  • The songs
  • Some history of this bizarre event
  • BBC coverage
  • Video clip, words, and song itself

  • Saturday, May 21, 2005

    Susan's green house

    Green House

    Ever since my unwise reference to the Leung mansion not being green as *I* understand the color (and Julie's prompt correction), I've been keeping my head down.

    Thanks to Anita's report on the Seattle Weblogger's May meet - such a plethora of photos! - I've discovered Susan's eminently lineable Habanero blog, and with it a fine example of what I myself look for when someone directs me to a "green house". Good. I'm glad *that's* settled.

    Also in her blog, Susan describes the all-too common nightmare of being trapped by a cellphone chatterbox. That resonated firmly with me, as it must do with so many others. It's my belief that the planet is heading for some Mt St Helens-style phone rage eruption that will so stun authorities with its Columbine devastation that bye-laws will be drafted and official etiquettes agreed on to avoid further boilings.

    The woman in Sue's story countered with some feeble excuse that she had a child who was dying. What I want to know is, why is it that every single anti-social wretch one challenges is able to reel off some unlikely sob-hoo story as if to excuse or explain their boorish behavior?

    As Sue points out, having an expiring kid seemed not to dampen the lady's ardor to drive everyone else to an early grave of boredom *or* place herself in danger of preceding the sprog by being throttled there and then by the assorted throng.

    I crusade loudly against these types on the Bainbridge ferry and, no matter *what* dreary gossip or domestic fallout they've been yammering on about during the call, as soon as the bellowing is over they invariably produce some cock-and-bull lament - never actually mentioned during the call.

    The last time he was over, my brother - who does not suffer from my excruciating politeness - suggested to the offender that, under the tragic domestic circumstances, should she not be huddled in a softly sobbing heap before us with the two of us exchanging alarmed glances in whispered debate about how to comfort her? Instead, it's *us* reduced to tears by her loud and unseemly heartiness.

    michael and carol gormley


    - out by June 18 -

    Even as I mourn and spit agreement with Steven Gardner's incisive Tech-Levy Comment on the lamentable Luddite victory, Mr. Gardner remembers my interest and kindly sends me the latest on Carol and Michael Gormley's gruelling fight to stay in this country on literally life-saving humanitarian grounds.

    Heart-breakingly, the asylum request has been rejected and Michael has received his almost certain death sentence, to be out of the country by June 18. Black Saturday, indeed.

    What can one say, when so many people have made such an effort to get the message through the fog of bureaucracy and clogging red tape - even up to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals?

    Unfortunately, the financial aspect cuts no ice with American law: Michael may lack insurance back in South Africa, and hence the means to fill the 13 prescriptions for his heart condition, but that's neither here nor there with the Immigration types who simply counter that the medicine *is* available there, as is financial aid for those who need it.

    We may have bungled the Levy, but Islanders did get it right with the Gormleys, rallying to their side. A particular salute to firebrand Sue Wilmot who's kept me in touch with this dark farce and whose comment in the Islander will resound with all of us:

    "I am just stunned that our government could send these people back. "It's just so ridiculous."

    Friday, May 20, 2005


    Trompe L'oeil

    Rather clever - except that the falling figure detracts from the overall effect.

    Almost *too* clever: I can't actually see where the paint ends and bathroom begins.

    This was emailed to me as the work of an artist who thought it'd be fun to jazz up the guest loo.

    From the photographer's 'Worth' logo at the bottom, it looks like a pro job.

    Either way, it's unusual ....

    Thursday, May 19, 2005

    Island Cloggings

    Mid-morning Pimms unfortunately soured by depressing update on that construction monstrosity daily defiling High School Road.

    kim sorenson - photo douglas cristMollified by editor's clever ploy of decorating dismal tale with fetching snap of some Jennifer Love Hewitt-lookalike, complete with pristine hard-hat in seasonal blush pink.

    Virginia Villa manageress Linda O'Neill nails it in one: “I don’t think people could visualize just how big the project would be during permit review."

    Nods. Always humiliating to wake to realization that clever developers have once again run rings round us rural islanders.

    Read somewhere that Suquamish casino pays extra for police time spent mopping up traffic messes caused by greenhorn customers failing to read our roads right.

    That 51-room hotel could be a source of moolah and merriment once the guest rooms fill and dinky rented hybrids vie with local juggernauts for filter into the 4-way mayhem.

    Annoying, too, to miss putting at least a steel-tipped toecap into that Harbor Square travesty. Should have foreseen that cunning fellow Hong Kong-ers would want in on slice of the action.

    Had I been thinking on my feet, could have arranged for assorted colonial ruffians to circulate muscular hints around midlevels haciendas and fleshpots of Lang Kwai Fong that anti-social investment of dubiously acquired 'cheen' only encourages *more* of such desecration, and will be dealt with accordingly.

    Dept of Silver Lining: From experience, this sort of migration attracts knowledgeable camp followers, disgruntled by irksome security and draconian Beijingois sentences back home and relieved to work the easier touch of a gweilo beat.

    Might apply for loan to set up discreet triad-centric bed & congee safe-house complete with yum-cha and daily delivery of Ming Pao.

    Wednesday, May 18, 2005

    Total cig ban for Brit boozers

    Depressing news from home of the health nazis aiming for a total ban of smoking in pubs.

    Thank God my smoking days were before all this craven nonsense - a pint or five without a full pack of fags? Unthinkable. Hardly worth setting foot in the boozer in the first place.

    Guardian article suggests that "a comprehensive ban could lead to the closure of about 10% of UK pubs ... The figure for Enterprise was likely to be between 200 and 300 closures, with properties sold for alternative use."

    Serve 'em right, too, caving in like that to nanny government ways: A pub industry that won't go to bat for its regulars is probably better off out on the street seeking more suitable employment.

    New Words

    New words and phrases added to the New Oxford American Dictionary (I haven't yet checked if this is the distinguished OUP, or some US imprint trying to sound posh).

    According to the blurb, "the additional words reflect the world we live in today."

    Tuesday, May 17, 2005

    robert blake

    Robert Blake

    I don't have an opinion one way or another about Robert Blake's possible involvement in the slaying of Bonny Lee Blakley.

    But I'll own up to feeling easy about his acquittal.

    That was some trial, and as I followed it I kept thinking of what he once said about what he'd learned:

    robert blake

    "I am what I am. I'm crazy, I'm hostile, I got a lot of drive, I got a lot of hate, a lot of fear.

    For most of my life, I tried to put that away and be like other people, and therapy didn't change me. But what I learned - and what I want to tell *you* - is:

    If you can get to that place where you can take whatever you are and use it out there in the world, not try to put it away and say I'm not angry, I'm a good boy, I'm not scared of the dark anymore ... whatever your problem is ... instead of going into the corner like a dog and chewing on your own feet.

    If you can take that ... that whatever is in you, and turn it up and say that's what the hell I am 'n' I gotta find a way to make that work, then you'll be OK."

    50 Worst Clips

    My own locks need lopping. I'm in lazy danger of once again going under the Grate Klips shears and emerging with their usual Lyle Lovett-style woman-repellant tuft.

    Then again, LL got Julia Roberts.

    Cain't win.

    italian for beginners posterThe Rialto

    The Merchant of Venice

  • Al Pacino
  • Jeremy Irons
  • Joseph Fiennes
  • Lynn Collins
  • Alan Corduner
  • Anton Rodgers, et al
  • Wearying of my daily toil of seeking honest employ, didst to the Globe Pavilion, there to observe assorted gentlefolk of the theatrical trade besport themselves in service of the Bard.

    I'd completely forgot that Daughter 2 had furnished my study with a poster from Lone Scherfig's clever flick and hence nor did it click when I roamed fair Venezia last Xmas and actually stood on the Rialto that I'd been staring at this view for many a month.

    Sat agog with text on lap, remembering not just Oxford but both schools and outings in the 1960s to the Old Vic to see the Merchant performed onstage.

    It's appalling to think of the racism and beliefism that existed even then: can you imagine a class today when a teacher would dare to assign Goldstein to the role of Shylock? But that seemed only natural back then, with the prettiest junior assigned to Portia and macho captain of the house rugger team, Dyer-Smith, as Antonio. Swoon.

    imdb cover shot of MerchantJeremy Irons superb as the wearied Antonio - surely, he's cornered the role of gaunt decency?

    Once again, I was fooled in the accent department: Texan Lynn Collins played an impeccably accented (and everything else), perfect Portia, down to her gorgeous Titian tresses.

    (Quick breather to insert link to New York Ties review)

    On the subject of the beauteous Lynn, I was interested to find in the special features that, unlike most cases where the actors blab interestingly, Ms Collins has not one intelligent insight or word to add on the lines she delivers so convincingly on screen.

    What to say of Pacino? Surely the Jew has never been so movingly portrayed, nor Shakespeare's insight into the human condition so subtly highlighted?

    Script-wise, I know it's ridiculous to talk like that about Shakespeare (and director Michael Radford makes sure to acknowledge that with coy apologia) but Radford has done a remarkable job honing the text for more general consumption. Had I not had the play before me, I'd've missed some of the prunings, so skilled was the streamlining.

    Oy veh! The Usurer had his daughter problems and I will too if I don't make sure that a certain honors student isn't whisked to an early showing of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pound of Flesh

    Shades of Shine

    Extroadinary story, this, of a wandering mystery man who stunned carers by giving a virtuoso classical piano performance.

    The man has not said a word since police picked him up wandering the streets of Sheerness, Kent, in a soaking wet suit and tie.

    Also ABC and MSNBC reportage.

    May 17: well this story seems to be world-wide. On the question of Il Mysterioso's virtuosity, "Hospital chaplain the Rev. Steve Spencer said the man "is not the virtuoso that he has been portrayed in the press. He knows a small number of tunes and plays them over and over -- I recognized some John Lennon and a snippet from Tchaikovsky's 'Swan Lake.' "

    Monday, May 16, 2005

    Air America

    Fun Fun Fun

    ('til Daddy takes the D-Bird awa-a-y)

    Am having bags of fun re-discovering the AM waveband by plugging into 1090 AM KPTK's Air America

  • That Randi Rhodes
  • Janeane Garofalo
  • Sam Sneder
  • Al Franken
  • A shouty bloke whose name I've not yet caught.

    That clever Mr. Franklin actually had a standing-room-only signing session at CoErcia Enterprises where I got his scrawl on his book.

    We genteel Brits aren't used to Barnum & Bailey foghorn hollering, so it's fascinating to lie awake a-bed and listen to this soap-box bawling.

    It may be Ms Rhodes - certainly that other bloke - but someone certainly gives the microphone a right caning.

    Having been on the enginering side, all I can think of is the needle jabbing into the red and what sort of baffle they must give the mic to fend off all those sibilants and indignant consonants.

    Great show.

  • Phoneix bk jacket

    Craig for Quiller

    Author Elleston Trevor and I were pals for over 25 years during which time he sent me copies of each new Quiller novel as it came out.

    In fact, he did me the great honour of actually *dedicating* The Scorpion Signal to me.

    His widow very courteously carries on the tradition and sent me a copy of the paperback of Phoenix with its new cover pic celebrating the dismal movie. I called her to say hi and thanks and we chatted about the great man and how no one seems to be able to film his books right.

    I mentioned how very much more suitable Dannie Craig would be as Quiller than 007.

    bagelsgoat sampson

    $2.00 Bagel!

    (paper or plastic?)

    My list of gripes to pin on Julie Leung grows apace.

    Mostly stemming from that disconcertingly chummy get-together she and Ted organized to lure us BI tappers out into the sunlight.

    That's where I met Adrian 'Feral Goat' Sampson, fresh-faced site keeper of the anagrammatic Capra Hircus on which is posted an all-too catchy and bizarre $2.00 bagel shanty.

    *Twice* in her posting doth La J warn me not to click on that musical Pandora, but did I listen?

    Since being ensnared by this ditty, I've had pass thru my portals assorted low lifers - singers and strummers, rapistas and a capellates, hollerers and hipster hoppers - all of whom with one accord vote it hypnotic and seem to have lost no time despatching it to fellow ne'er-do-wells from Hong Kong to Halifax, Macau to Makati.

    In sour-grapes view of 'Goat' Sampson's unforgivable youth and cleverness, naturally no mention is made of any début album by a certain local 'progressive' musical combo posing as Triach Trio & Ivan Sly.

    The timing is spot-on and there's real inventiveness there with its dangerous intravenous mantra hook. The last time my pals were queuing in a bagelorium - and these are ace sessions guys who can stumble hungover into a studio, peer blearily at the sheet music, and still wrap it in one - they caused much merriment with their staccato hip-swaying: CH with Tayor

    "Two dollar bagel! * Yeh! What you *say*? - What - what - what? - Two dollar bagel! - Paper or plastic? - What? Yeh. - Two. Dollar. Bagel!"
    It is now banned from the Holmes sound systems until normal service is resumèd and Holmes Juniorette has been de-programmed.

    Sunday, May 15, 2005

    Kung Fu Quotes

    I always love those funny subtitles they dish up with the kung fu films.

    I remember in my Hong Kong youth that John Peter Dunt's dad would take us to movies like River of No Return, Prince Valiant, and all those Alan Ladd heroics, while our amah and cook boy would haul us along to the local flea pit for the latest chop socky acrobatics.

    Later on, my family got to know Run Run Shaw quite well and I saw quite a few new ones in the Shaw preview theatre before they hit general release.

    I suppose I should have known I was a bound for penniless career in letters when mine was the only tinkle of laughter at some stricken actress wailing, "Oh dear! Mr Wong has died of freight."

    ariel pic

    Visual Dictionary

    Clever Steeev-scripted Flickr-powered Vis Dict.

    Look up Bainbridge Island and you get lotsa lovely Julie Leungs, I Bainbridge, Ariel (surely not the divine Electrolicious? Anyway, that's her snap of the beaut babe over there), and Yorick.

    Also rather a lot of houses from a Stevenson.

    flight plan


    Yet another splendid curry at the excellent Gandhi - this time well stocked with Kingfisher beer and with manager Manoj Kumar presiding serenely at the receipt of custom, leaving the gracious scurrying to his trained staff.

    From there, a mere waddle to my seat for the 3:45 showing of Monster-in-Law, made impossible to watch by Jane Fonda's overly convincing portrayal in the title role and Jennifer Lopez' inability to bring anything to her part as the hapless would-be daughter-in-law.

    Last straw was Fonda sneaking up on JLo in full oriental garb as she settles down to a scary movie, and then talking throughout the rest of the pic. I upped and crossed over to admire Sean Penn playing yet another version of himself in The Interpreter.

    But these outings are never a disappointment because I make sure to arrive in good time to catch the trailers.

    Looks like a goodie coming up on September 23 - Flightplan with the ever-fanciable Jodie Foster.

    "Flying at 40,000 feet from Berlin to New York, Kyle Pratt (Foster) faces every mother's worst nightmare when her young daughter vanishes mid-flight.

    Already emotionally devastated by the unexpected death of her husband, Kyle desperately struggles to prove her sanity to the disbelieving flight crew (Sean Bean as gruff Captain - who else? - and henchman Peter Sarsgaard) and passengers, while facing the very real possibility that she may be losing her mind."

    I love the line about "every mother's worst nightmare". What, *every? I myself am currently at the mercy of some pretty gruelling cauchemars, but none has actually been airborne in quite that way. I'm willing to bet that you could line up loving mamas from Doncaster to Disteghil Sar, Nacogdoches to Namcha Barwa, and not one would have in their top ten frights the possibility of misplacing a sprog at 40,000 feet.

    End note: speaking of frights, I just gave myself a 10-minute puzzler thanks to being flash with that cauchemars link.

    I've been listening to Segovia through headphones and suddenly became aware of the faint but distinct sound of someone breathing. I had three browsers open but it didn't occur to me to check. I thought at first it was a sensitive mic picking up Andrés himself as he bent over the fretboard but when I paused the plunking, the breathing went on ... ugh. It was the nightmare site ... sinister and not the most reassuring sound at 0115 hrs of a bleak night.

    Exotic Nix Jinx for School

    Earlier this year, I expressed tongue-in-cheek puzzlement over certain exotic names, in reply to which a banshee pal sent through some interesting data.

    Boy do I now have an update for *her*. In fact, this plays so hilariously to my every incorrectitude that I looked for clues that Local6.com was playing a joke on us:

    Black students with exotic names don't do as well in school as black students with more common names?

    Poorly educated black women overwhelmingly give their children names that begin with certain prefixes, such as "lo," "ta" and "qua," and certain suffixes, such as "isha" and "ious."?

    This is not good for me to even think might be true: surely this can't be right?

    Meanwhile, I'm speeding this story over Demonessa, from whom I expect a stentorian raspberry put-down before the sun rises on the new week.


    Ever heard of Happy Slapping? Because it's catching on with the Brits

    Man walks across Charing Cross bridge, minding his own business. Suddenly, a teenager in a hoodie steps in front of him blocking his path. Man prepares to be mugged, but no - it's weirder than that.

    The 'mugger' is holding his mobile out in front of him to take a pic of the man. As he does so, another kid on a bike comes up from behind and thwacks the bloke across the back of the head with a rolled-up magazine.

    This 'Norman' has just been "happy slapped".

    Actually, it can be more brutal than that.

    The ASBOs mentioned in the Guardian article are Britain's Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, introduced in April 1999 to combat the sort of aggro that disrupts the lives of honest upstanding folk like us.

    For anyone interested, the Home Office even puts out statistics on such bad behaviour.

    Do I see it catching on here? Not really. For starters, we have our own fuzz cruising around on bikes so a Slapper would need to be alert to any puissant-thighed cop powering after *him* - and with something a little harder in his mitt than a rolled copy of the Economist, by George.

    Saturday, May 14, 2005

    hellroy graffiti

    Now I know why God gave us Bloglines - so I can keep track of the ever-inventive and entertaining Mike Houser's CasdraBlog and get to see stunning graffiti like the masterpiece above, apparently tossed off in a bored hour for Mike's pal Hellroy.

    If this is what the dude comes up with from his sick bed - do I have that right? The guy's sick *ailing*, not sick loony? - I can only guess at the sistine chapels he daubs when on form.

    With gems like this to cheer my day, suddenly bored ain't so boring.

    As good a page as any to include Senseless Acts of Beauty



    I've been casting about for a bonding board game for us to play and relive the joys and eruptions of a good ol' family squabble.

    My eye is caught by Blogopoly:

  • For the companies and enterprises, it uses the big names in the blogging industry.
  • Public utilities - water works and 'lectricity - cleverly morph to Wikipedia and Creative Commons
  • Crook becomes Spammer, Free Parking = Free Hosting.
  • Chance and Community Chest = Comment and Trackback.

    Planet Swank is good on it, too.

  • spelling test image

    Spelling Test

    I've always rather fancied myself as a speller and general literatus but Writing System's amusing informative site has knocked some of the stuffing out of me.

  • Check out its spelling tests
  • In particular, bring yourself down to earth with the Test 1 challenge - only SEVEN people have got it 100% right.

    Naturally, I clicked straight there with my usual supercilious sneer - and came a right cropper. Not on obscurities, but the sheer humiliation of weasel words I actually use in speech but found myself flummoxed and indecisive over their spelling.

    Let me know how y'all fare.

  • dylan line drawing

    Reviewing Dylan

    Remarkable review by Luc Sante in The New York Review of Books, chiefly scrutinizing Chronicles, but also taking in Studio A, the Dylan Reader, Lyrics, and the ill-fated Tarantula.

    It's a long piece and I've got to go thru it again to sort out why and where it impressed me so much - apart from the man's obvious learning and refusal to dumb down.

    Here's a taste of Sante's style, in case he's not your cuppa

    "Chronicles works so well in part because in writing it Dylan apparently found a formal model to adhere to or violate at will, and if he did not have in mind any specific nineteenth-century account of callowness and ambition, maybe he conjured up a cumulative memory of dusty volumes found on friends' bookshelves in Greenwich Village or in the basement of the bookshop in Dinkytown he worked in as a student. He also found an outlet for his inclination to counter his audience's expectations. Readers, guessing on the basis of interviews and movies as well as the hydra-headed mythic image that has grown around Dylan over the decades, might have expected his memoir to be variously inscrutable, gnomic, bilious, confused, preening, recriminatory, impersonal, defensive, perfunctory, smug, or even ghost-written. Instead Dylan had to outflank them by exercising candor, warmth, diligence, humor, and vulnerability. If there is ever a second volume, he may have to contradict himself yet again."

    Friday, May 13, 2005

    mclibel anti-mcdonalds image


    A movie I intend to see.

    McLibel opens Seattle June 10.

    I don't know how much coverage this case got in the US but it caught the Brits' imagination with its David-and-Goliath element and chance to bad-mouth all things corporate *and* American, to boot.

    thumbs up from ronald mcdonald

  • Landing them in the longest trial in English legal history, the 'McLibel Two' - penniless activists Helen Steel and Dave Morris - took on McDonald's USD$19 million legal team and delivered them a bloody nose in what's now seen as one of the biggest corporate PR disasters ever.
  • The marathon legal battle ended last February in the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Speaking of PR, not the best of times for the Golden Arch-holes: first Super Size Me and now this, filmed over ten years and with re-enactments of key courtroom scenes directed by none other than Ken Loach.
  • Seeing that celebratory Ronald McDonald up there, I wonder how easy it was for the PR department to find an actor ready to take on the assignment. I mean, the win was so unpopular, I'd've worried about some passer-by biffing me one.

  • sherlock with pipe


    Visual amuse-gueule for slackers and family.

    Click on the thumbnails.

    find all 9 facesFind all Nine Faces

    left right conflictLeft-Right Conflict

    a and b are the same colorA and B are the same color

    are they spinning?Are They Spinning?

    anything moving?Anything Moving?
    (yes, all over)

    Plenty more where those came from ....

    CIA fact book banner

    time zones

    2005 CIA World Factbook

    Having spent time in spook-ridden Asia, made a few pals among operatives on the dark side, *and* never stinted on an overactive imagination, I've always been slightly in awe over the conundrum of the CIA actually making public any sort of information.

    Their World Factbook is as good a reference source as any and many a homework assignment has borne the hint of the CIA stamp. On an even more practical note, the Kérkyra laptop is configged to boot to the time zone (click on map) - a useful safeguard against pre-dawn phone calls to Château Busker.

    The 2005 edition has the usual updates, plus new features such as info' broken up under subheads.

  • The 'People' subhead now shows major infectious diseases for countries considered to have a higher degree of risk for travelers. For instance, Benin lists waterborne and vector-borne diseases as well as respiratory diseases.
  • New entries include 'Economy' subhead fields for Current Account Balance, Investment, Public Debt, and Reserves of Foreign Exchange and Gold.
  • Where appropriate, the Trans-national subhead shows Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons fields.

    And, since I like to keep things under one roof:

  • Info' Service's Web's Best Resource
  • Media Link's Directory of Experts (incl prominent display of Bainbridge Neighbors for Peace
  • Spire Project

  • image


    I don't think this is for me:

  • "The internet's first blog exchange where thousands of bloggers visit each other's blogs in order to receive tons of blog traffic"
  • "Hundreds or even thousands of other bloggers coming to read [my] blog each month.
  • I read other blog sites and they in return visit mine.
  • For starters - and I obsess over this sort of thing - they don't seem too sure what their name is. I choose BlogExplosion but it also appears as Blog Explosion and even blogexplosion.

    I'm pretty happy with my current insularity, collecting pals by word of mouth, but I put it out there for others' assessment.

    There's an "About Them" link where they address people like me who react to the concept of exchanging blog traffic as a waste of time and prefer more traditional ways of generating traffic to my blog (which hasn't actually ever crossed my mind).

    Anyway, all part of the vibrant growing blog scene ...

    Thursday, May 12, 2005

    Why Blog?

    Via the excellent Conscientious photography blog, some interesting interviews by Toronto-based Melanie McBride.

    Language + Memory Access + Gesturing

    The only advice my very shrewd mother gave me for my job quest was to cut down on my gestures during interviews.

    This sapped my confidence further because I hate the idea of some effusive fop who can't communicate without waving my hands about in effeminate Latin-style gestures.

    I immediately contacted pals and other family members to check how much of a windmill I actually am in conversation. None seemed aware of anything overly flamboyant - phew.

    But now comes Science Daily to tell me that what I'm really doing is improving my access to language to get my story over even better. Also phew.

    bigleaf maple


    Topic of the week *has* to be felling and girdling, as defined by the distressing letter from Vic Martino and Maggie Smith ( "Call neighbors before cutting") detailing the chainsaw massacre on their property, nobly supported by the Police Blotter report of

    "Trespassing on Beck Road. A resident [Martino] reported that his neighbor had hired a tree service to trim a tree that was clearly on the complainant's property.

    Healthy tree branches were cut, and one damaged [Martino's] fence. The incident is under investigation."

    I must say, I'm impressed by the very mildness of the Martino-Smith letter, although I confess to a chill running through me as I read the disgraceful tale:
    • Neighbor commissions three professionals to "cut some dead branches from a maple tree on the property line"
    • Neighbor sees no necessity for discussing these plans with the Martino/Smiths, even tho' adjacent neighbors were contacted over similar tree cutting which turns out to be for the sole benefit of improving views from the culprit's house.
    • Nor did the tree trimmers pay Martino the courtesy of introducing themselves and explaining their commission - even tho' it involved one of them trespassing 25 feet up a tree on Martino property.
    • According to the view lovers, they saw no necessity to discuss with the Martino-Smiths either their plans or the timing.

    "Why did they not speak with us?" asks Martino, describing their failure as "disturbing" and calling into question their whole motives over this appalling incident.

    Well, I think I can shed some light, being cut from the exact same cloth of moral cowardice as Martino's craven neighbors. I know exactly the feeling of having the guts to face neighbors from whom I expect little opposition but keeping my guilty conscience well clear of the Vic Martinos in this life, even to the extent of glossing over the need for the tree cutters to worry about a little trespass or wreaking damage.

    If it had been me, I'd've made damn'd sure I was nowhere around when Vic came out *and* I'd've cobbled up some cock-and-bull story for the chainsawer to affect innocence while fobbing Martino off as they got on with the job.

    I see nothing "inexplicable" about failing to communicate before giving the cutters the green light. Story of my life when I suspect I'll be contradicted or nay-said: far easier to slither around behind people's backs, achieve what I want and then wring my hands in confusion at their puzzling ire.

    Maybe such dishonesty does guarantee "a troubled outcome" but what do the spineless care?: Vic and Maggie's maple is pruned, the offending branches lopped, the neighbor has his view.

    All of which reminds me of an incident dear to my heart that took place around Christmas 1993 in the Hong Kong seashore village of Stanley.

    We lived in a first-floor apartment whose balcony enjoyed a splendid seaview and from which there was a drop of 15 or so feet to the road below.

    Our neighbors to the left were a gourmet restaurant whose annual display of Christmas lights rivaled in splendor even those Baker Hill artistes.

    To power the lights, they needed to run a large cable across our balcony ledge which involved some agile kitchen porter maneuvering the wire across our property.

    Year after year, I demanded that the German proprietor at least have the courtesy to send someone round to ask permission and let us know what was going on. To no avail. Who were we, mere residents, compared to his international clientèle? Besides, what was I going to do? Sue him?

    15-yr old Harry on BainbridgeBut let us leave the distasteful story of Stanley's Restaurant and talk of my faithful dog, "Harry" - no longer with us but a true survivor, living to the grizzled age of 15, six more years than is usually given to his breed of Labrador/Lurcher.

    That's him there, faithful old boy, in the arthritic autumn of his years.

    Harry with meat, Stanley, Hong KongBut back in 1993, Harry was in his sleek fittest prime and, altho' a complete softie by nature, utterly lethal when gnawing on red meat. One slid the bone across and stood well back, making very sure not to give him *any* reason to believe that you might be approaching to share - or even remove - his feast.

    See that expression there? The lean mean stare? That body was a coiled spring and any teasing tone or another 2 steps would buy you medieval retaliation.

    Because of the children and visitors, the safe way to bandy meat around was to chuck it out on the verandah and shut the door behind Harry as he followed it out. Disbelieving friends would approach the glass of the door and leap back ashen-faced at the sheer ferocity of Harry's reaction.

    Young Harry snarling with meat, Hong KongI took the two photos shown here when it was just him and me - Alpha male master - in the house. And I did not press the point with him.

    See where I'm going with this?

  • Holmes family finishes carnivorous meal and chucks bones out on verandah for killer hound's contented gnawing pleasure.
  • Meanwhile, next door, Obergrüpenführer Manager instructs his staff to start installing the Christmas lights cable.
  • Hapless coolie edges along railing of darkened balcony. With a primeval roar that must have changed little since sabre-toothed ancestors prowled the land, out of the gloom springs this black-as-sin "creature".

    God, I wish I'd been there to see: the guy must have flung himself as far as possible from Harry because when I looked out he was writhing in the middle of the road, a good eight or ten feet from the building.

    By the time I got down, the guy's kitchen cronies were gathering round, soon to be joined by the German maître d' who huffed and puffed about calling the police and vowed to prosecute and have our dangerous dog put down.

    The young man seemed more bruised and shocked than hurt but his pals were telling him in Cantonese to lie still in case anything was broken.

    I just laughed and laughed and said I wished I'd seen it, at the same time pointing out to the kraut that it was exceedingly selfish if not dangerous to place an employee in that situation without first checking the lie of the land. I assured him that I was equally eager for the local constabulary to arrive and pronounce on the legality of trespassing in this way. When the bobby turned up, he was a young chappie whose lack of English made it easier to converse in Cantonese:

  • What did this gwei-lo (gesturing at the German) think he was doing sending an unsuspecting local across private property, risking him being nabbed for trespassing?
  • On top of which, so dangerous to put him in harm's way, sneaking up on a highly-strung pet. Aiyah! Why, my dog could have had a heart-attack, besides which look what happened to the young man? He could fallen on his head and been killed.
  • A full report was called for to allow the restaurant's insurance to pay in full for his injuries - and who knew *how* much more for 'emotional distress'.

    "Wai, pung-yau - oy, pal - " I growled in sotto voce Cantonese, "you stay down there and a bit of moaning and groaning wouldn't do your case any harm neither."

    By now Herr manager had caught on that he was being left out so he started ranting on about my vicious dog, who by then had finished (or had removed) his viande and was doing his blank-gazed cuddly toy imitation, wagging tail and peering down at Massa, 9-year-old Georgina stroking him on one side and 2-yr-old Anna tugging at his whiskers on the other.

    I assured the bruised electrician - and translated for the Teuton - that he could count on me as his witness to clinch maximum workman's compen for being put in such a dangerous situation, and that he should make sure the police report was detailed.

    The restaurant would certainly have had insurance, if only to cover diners, but it was highly unlikely they'd ever educate their lowly staff as to their rights.

    My mention of workman's comp seemed to come as an intriguing and welcome concept to be milked for all it was worth. As for "emotional distress", I think I translated it as sudden unexplained bouts of unhappiness, inability to sleep and when he could bad dreams of falling, fear of dogs, unexplained uncharacteristic difficulty in satisfying his girlfriend (cheers and jeers: very popular that one).

    Suddenly we were shaking hands and patting backs and apologizing for any bad feeling, glaring in concert at the exasperated Manager who hadn't the faintest idea what was going on but was none too happy about the copious notes the policeman was taking or the mysteriously friendly reception I was getting.

    With a final cheery wave up at the girls and a tail-wagging Harry, all concerned parted ways.

    I know this is scant comfort for the disgraceful behaviour of the Martino-Smith's running-dog neighbors, but I sense a karmic come-uppance eminently pleasing to all.

    It's been fun just remembering my good old boy and digging out those photos in salute.

    "Under investigation", indeed, mes chers! I have full confidence in the editor keeping us abreast with reportage of the full grisly details, and I look forward to blog-casting the outcome. Os!

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